Thomas McDermott was born at 27, Woodward Street, Manchester, Lancashire, England on 20th February 1875, the son of William and Annie McDermott (née Beaty). He had an older sister named Elizabeth who was born in 1871 or 1872. Their mother died when Thomas was only two years of age in November 1877 and their father, who was born in Ireland and whose trade was that of a cooper, had to bring them up alone.
By the early 1890s, the family had moved to Liverpool, and on 9th July 1898, Thomas McDermott married Rebecca Lawson at St. Nicholas’ - The Parish Church of Liverpool. He was aged 23 years and she was 21 and they both lived in Gomer Street, Liverpool and may have met there as neighbours. They had two children, Mary Elizabeth, born in January 1899 and Thomas, born in December 1911. At that time of his marriage, Thomas was a confectioner, but by the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914, he was serving as a fireman in the British Mercantile Marine. In 1915, the family home was at 14, Court, 2 Hope Terrace, Hygeia Street, West Derby Road, West Derby, Liverpool, Lancashire.
On 12th April of that year, he engaged as a fireman in the Engineering Department on board the
Lusitania at Liverpool and reported for duty at 8 a.m. on 17th April, the day the liner left the River Mersey for the last time. His monthly rate of pay, as a fireman was £6-10s-0d., (£6.50p.). £1-0s-0d. of which was advanced to him at the time. His previous ship had been the White Star Liner Cedric.
Having completed her last ever western crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, the
Lusitania arrived at New York on 24th April 1915 and left there on the early afternoon of 1st May, for her return voyage to Liverpool. She only got as far as the southern coast of Ireland, however, for on the afternoon of 7th May, she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-20 off The Old Head of Kinsale, only about twelve to fourteen hours steaming time away from the safety of her home port.
Thomas McDermott was killed as a result of this action, however, and as no trace of his body was ever found and identified afterwards, he has no known place of burial. Consequently, he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London. He was aged 39 years. He is also commemorated on the City of Liverpool Roll of Honour in the basement of the Town Hall in Liverpool.
In keeping with all crew members serving on the Lusitania, Cunard paid Thomas McDermott up to and until 24 hours after the sinking and in August 1915, the balance of wages owing to him was allotted to his widow Rebecca. In addition, The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted a yearly pension to his widow to compensate her for the loss of her husband. This amounted to £35-9s-0d. (£35.45p.) which was payable at the rate of £2-19s-1d. (£2.95½p.) per month.
Cunard records erroneously show his name as E. McDermott but the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission show it to be
Thomas McDermott, and research has confirmed this.
When Fireman McDermott engaged for the Cunarder’s final voyage, he signed his name McDermot, with a single ‘t’ and gave his age as 40 years. In light of family information and the records of the Commonwealth War Grave Commission, which would have been compiled from family sources after the Great War, however, these two facts must be regarded as incorrect. He would, of course, have been in his 40th year.
His wife Rebecca died in April 1956, aged 78 years, his daughter Elizabeth died in February 1916, aged 17 years and his son Thomas died in October 2001, exactly two months short of his 90th birthday.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1911 English Census, 1901 English Census, 1891 English Census, 1881 English Census, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, Sheila Gibbons, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv. PR 13/24, PRO BT 334.